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The Ophier's Return
by Phil

"Eadmer climbed the circular steps up to the second story living quarters. The old seneschal drew his robes close about him to stave off the cold air that seemed to haunt every nook of the castle. Even with the glass panes in the windows, a pesky draft seemed omnipresent within the old stone walls.
""Still, it's better than the bleak snowy borderlands. Here it just rains and rains," mumbled the shivering man as he walked down the main hall towards the King's chambers.
"Seeing a shape silhouetted against a window at the end of the hall, Eadmer stopped. Though the day was overcast and gray, the light coming in through the panes was bright to the old man's eyes. After a few moments to adjust, Eadmer saw that the shape was that of the King. The King was a tall man, and his warrior frame filled out the ermine coat he wore for warmth. Though imposing, Villard's blond hair and kind brown eyes accented pleasantly his peculiarly endearing smile. People wanted to like the man.
"Eadmer at first believed the King to be talking to himself until he heard the unmistakable cry of a baby. Eadmer smiled and felt oddly privileged to steal a glimpse of this private moment between father and son. The infant had to be Ranulf. Ran was the first born and Lothair, his twin brother, seldom cried and then only softly. The swaddled babe in Villard's arms cried loudly and with conviction.
"Eadmer approached the two and cleared his throat.
"Villard turned slightly and smiled at his seneschal, at the same time trying to comfort his son. Indicating the crying child the King said, "He's unhappy with the status quo. A good trait to have in a future king. He will try to make things better."
"Eadmer chuckled and grinned from ear to ear as the infant grasped his pinkie finger with its tiny hand. The old man and the King mused over the babe for a few moments, then Eadmer started.
""Oh, Your Majesty, I nearly forgot. The Harbour Master has sent word, the Ophier's ship has been spotted in the bay and will arrive at dock shortly. He may already have debarked by now."
""Excellent!" Exclaimed the King. "Have him brought here at once." As the King made for the Queen's chambers he added, "Bring him to the feast hall, we'll talk there. No doubt he could use some refreshment."
""Yes, Your Majesty," responded Eadmer as the old seneschal began to retrace his steps back down the hall.

"The King's herald entered the feast hall and announced the Ophier. Several castle guards in chain mail, conical helms, and carrying halberds escorted the illustrious figure of the Ophier before the King.
"The Ophier smiled at Villard and indicated with a nod the armed escort. "I may be old, Your Majesty, but I can still look out for myself."
"Villard grinned at the russet robed magician. "Indeed, I sent them to protect everyone else from you!"
"The King chuckled and dismissed the guards. Turning to the mage, Villard said, "It's good to see you Deveron, I do hope all is well?"
"The King referred to the Ophier by his given name, and the mage understood that formalities could be dropped for this particular conversation.
""Good Villard, though I must admit the sea does not agree with me," said the Ophier leaning against his staff, a bit queasy. "It's good to be on dry land again. If I was a softer man I'd teleport everywhere I needed to go."
""Aye," said the King, "the sea is for fish and the Parglug. Who by the way have such a strangle hold on Videssia and the free cities that our trade with Orasaren can effectively be described as a trickle." Villard took a frustrated draught from a goblet of wine. "And the Taltheran are slow to trust us. Sit, you must be famished, and let us get you a glass of wine."
"Deveron held up his hand. "I do believe a glass of Ibriab blue is in order, Your Majesty."
""Things went well in Mir?"
""They did indeed. A wonderful island that Celamyr, the weather is more mild than here of course, but more than that there's a sense of ... well, I can't quite put my finger on it, but its ancient beauty and architecture made me to feel more at one with history. I felt more powerful, older somehow, standing on the soil of that mystic land."
"A servant filled the Ophier's goblet with the expensive pale wine imported from Taltheran. After taking a generous sip the mage sighed and continued. "They've agreed to recognize our nation and claim to all of East Torphan in exchange for our commitment to help thwart the evil known as Alatta." The last was said gravely.
"The King stood and paced behind his chair.
"Deveron continued. "What's more, as a stipulation of the Treaty of Annayeana, the entities known as the Eerith have also agreed to recognize our sovereignty in the region. Though what impact this will have in influencing others to acknowledge our domain is unknown."
"The King nodded. "What sort of a man is this Eubratosa?"
""Very perspicacious. Yes, the Archmage reminds me of the spider at the center of the web. He knows everything that is happening within the sphere of his influence."
""But what of his character?"
""In many ways like yourself. He's amiable, intentional, and highly capable of vengeance should he be so wronged. He'd find it very difficult indeed to not honor an official agreement, but I sense he would be more flexible than you if need be. He is a mage after all." The Ophier chuckled and finished off his goblet. A servant in the livery of the King--Vert, two dragons combatant Or--moved to refill his cup.
""Well, we are committed to fight this Alatta," said the King. as he walked to the window and looked out at nothing inparticular. The gray sky had grown darker, and a gentle rain was now falling over the city of Fauve Monde. "Our cause is just and right, and we would have fought against this devil Alatta alone if need be."
""But we have allies and there is reason to hope," supplied the mage.
""Yes," said the King, returning to his seat, "there is reason for that."
""And there's more good news Villard. Mir has agreed to open her ports to trade with Burcany. This may be the incentive needed to convince Taltheran that Burcany is a trustworthy and viable trade partner."
""Excellent news, the merchants have been grumbling for a political solution to the problem." The King looked at Deveron and smiled impishly. "I need to send you to Parglug in the spring."
"The Ophier groaned.
""Sorry old friend," said Villard, "but you're skills may be just the thing to help us traverse the blockade."
"Looking into his cup the Ophier replied, "At least I can travel by land."
""I'm affraid not. Though no harm might come from traveling to Parmouth by land, you may impress them by arriving by sea. The trip won't be so bad, you can hug the coast."
""Very well, Your Majesty," said the Ophier as he finished off the last of his wine, "I shall journey to Parmouth this spring. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to return to the Athenaeum and submit myself to a debriefing by the Brotherhood."
"The King chuckled. "You may go, and Deveron..."
""Yes?"
""Thank you."
"The Ophier bowed slightly at the curtesy and quietly left the feast hall.